skip to main content

Title: Aging in Flood-Prone Coastal Areas: Discerning the Health and Well-Being Risk for Older Residents
Coastal communities are increasingly exposed to more intense and frequent hurricanes, accelerated sea-level rise, and prolonged tidal inundation, yet they are often a preferred retirement destination for older adults vulnerable to flooding and extreme weather events. The unique physical and psychosocial challenges of older population age 65 and over may affect their level of preparedness, capacity to cope with, and ability to respond and recover from a hazard event. Despite the clear vulnerabilities of older residents living in high-risk areas when compared to younger coastal populations, there is a lack of empirical research on the integrated flood risks to this population group in the coastal context. This paper provides a holistic assessment of this emerging problem along the U.S. East Coast by measuring the exposure of older population to sea level rise and storm surge in coastal counties. It further evaluates how age-related vulnerabilities differ between rural and urban settings using the case study approach and geospatial and statistical analysis the paper also conducts a review of scientific literature to identify gaps in the current understanding of health and well-being risks to aging populations in coastal communities. The results show that older populations are unevenly distributed along the U.S. East more » Coast with some states and counties having significantly higher percent of residents age 65 and older living along the shoreline. Many places with larger older populations have other attributes that further shape the vulnerability of this age group such as older housing stock, disabilities, and lower income and that often differ between rural and urban settings. Lastly, our study found that vast majority of research on aging in high-risk coastal locations has been conducted in relation to major disasters and almost none on the recurrent nuisance flooding that is already affecting many coastal communities. « less
; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract River deltas all over the world are sinking beneath sea-level rise, causing significant threats to natural and social systems. This is due to the combined effects of anthropogenic changes to sediment supply and river flow, subsidence, and sea-level rise, posing an immediate threat to the 500–1,000 million residents, many in megacities that live on deltaic coasts. The Mississippi River Deltaic Plain (MRDP) provides examples for many of the functions and feedbacks, regarding how human river management has impacted source-sink processes in coastal deltaic basins, resulting in human settlements more at risk to coastal storms. The survival of human settlement on the MRDP is arguably coupled to a shifting mass balance between a deltaic landscape occupied by either land built by the Mississippi River or water occupied by the Gulf of Mexico. We developed an approach to compare 50 % L:W isopleths (L:W is ratio of land to water) across the Atchafalaya and Terrebonne Basins to test landscape behavior over the last six decades to measure delta instability in coastal deltaic basins as a function of reduced sediment supply from river flooding. The Atchafalaya Basin, with continued sediment delivery, compared to Terrebonne Basin, with reduced river inputs, allow us tomore »test assumptions of how coastal deltaic basins respond to river management over the last 75 years by analyzing landward migration rate of 50 % L:W isopleths between 1932 and 2010. The average landward migration for Terrebonne Basin was nearly 17,000 m (17 km) compared to only 22 m in Atchafalaya Basin over the last 78 years (p\0.001), resulting in migration rates of 218 m/year (0.22 km/year) and\0.5 m/year, respectively. In addition, freshwater vegetation expanded in Atchafalaya Basin since 1949 compared to migration of intermediate and brackish marshes landward in the Terrebonne Basin. Changes in salt marsh vegetation patterns were very distinct in these two basins with gain of 25 % in the Terrebonne Basin compared to 90 % decrease in the Atchafalaya Basin since 1949. These shifts in vegetation types as L:W ratio decreases with reduced sediment input and increase in salinity also coincide with an increase in wind fetch in Terrebonne Bay. In the upper Terrebonne Bay, where the largest landward migration of the 50 % L:W ratio isopleth occurred, we estimate that the wave power has increased by 50–100 % from 1932 to 2010, as the bathymetric and topographic conditions changed, and increase in maximum storm-surge height also increased owing to the landward migration of the L:W ratio isopleth. We argue that this balance of land relative to water in this delta provides a much clearer understanding of increased flood risk from tropical cyclones rather than just estimates of areal land loss. We describe how coastal deltaic basins of the MRDP can be used as experimental landscapes to provide insights into how varying degrees of sediment delivery to coastal deltaic floodplains change flooding risks of a sinking delta using landward migrations of 50 % L:W isopleths. The nonlinear response of migrating L:W isopleths as wind fetch increases is a critical feedback effect that should influence human river-management decisions in deltaic coast. Changes in land area alone do not capture how corresponding landscape degradation and increased water area can lead to exponential increase in flood risk to human populations in low-lying coastal regions. Reduced land formation in coastal deltaic basins (measured by changes in the land:water ratio) can contribute significantly to increasing flood risks by removing the negative feedback of wetlands on wave and storm-surge that occur during extreme weather events. Increased flood risks will promote population migration as human risks associated with living in a deltaic landscape increase, as land is submerged and coastal inundation threats rise. These system linkages in dynamic deltaic coasts define a balance of river management and human settlement dependent on a certain level of land area within coastal deltaic basins (L).« less
  2. Abstract. The interaction between storm surge and concurrent precipitation is poorly understood in many coastal regions. This paper investigates the potential compound effects from these two flooding drivers along the coast of China for the first time by using the most comprehensive records of storm surge and precipitation. Statistically significant dependence between flooding drivers exists at the majority of locations that are analysed, but the strength of the correlation varies spatially and temporally and depending on how extreme events are defined. In general, we find higher dependence at the south-eastern tide gauges (TGs) (latitude < 30∘ N) compared to the northern TGs. Seasonal variations in the dependence are also evident. Overall there are more sites with significant dependence in the tropical cyclone (TC) season, especially in the summer. Accounting for past sea level rise further increases the dependence between flooding drivers, and future sea level rise will hence likely lead to an increase in the frequency of compound events. We also find notable differences in the meteorological patterns associated with events where both drivers are extreme versus events where only one driver is extreme. Events with both extreme drivers at south-eastern TG sites are caused by low-pressure systems with similar characteristics across locations, including high precipitable watermore »content (PWC) and strong winds that generate high storm surge. Based on historical disaster damages records of Hong Kong, events with both extreme drivers account for the vast majority of damages and casualties, compared to univariate flooding events, where only one flooding driver occurred. Given the large coastal population and low capacity of drainage systems in many Chinese urban coastal areas, these findings highlight the necessity to incorporate compound flooding and its potential changes in a warming climate into risk assessments, urban planning, and the design of coastal infrastructure and flood defences.« less
  3. Abstract. Megacities are predominantlyconcentrated along coastlines, making them exposed to a diverse mix ofnatural hazards. The assessment of climatic hazard risk to cities rarely hascaptured the multiple interactions that occur in complex urban systems. Wepresent an improved method for urban multi-hazard risk assessment. We thenanalyze the risk of New York City as a case study to apply enhanced methodsfor multi-hazard risk assessment given the history of exposure to multipletypes of natural hazards which overlap spatially and, in some cases,temporally in this coastal megacity. Our aim is to identify hotspots ofmulti-hazard risk to support the prioritization of adaptation strategies thatcan address multiple sources of risk to urban residents. We usedsocioeconomic indicators to assess vulnerabilities and risks to threeclimate-related hazards (i.e., heat waves, inland flooding and coastal flooding) at high spatial resolution.The analysis incorporates local experts' opinions to identify sources ofmulti-hazard risk and to weight indicators used in the multi-hazard riskassessment. Results demonstrate the application of multi-hazard riskassessment to a coastal megacity and show that spatial hotspots ofmulti-hazard risk affect similar local residential communities along thecoastlines. Analyses suggest that New York City should prioritize adaptationin coastal zones and consider possible synergies and/or trade-offs tomaximize impacts of adaptation and resilience interventions in themore »spatiallyoverlapping areas at risk of impacts from multiple hazards.

    « less
  4. Low elevation coastal zones (LECZ) are extensive throughout the southeastern United States. LECZ communities are threatened by inundation from sea level rise, storm surge, wetland degradation, land subsidence, and hydrological flooding. Communication among scientists, stakeholders, policy makers and minority and poor residents must improve. We must predict processes spanning the ecological, physical, social, and health sciences. Communities need to address linkages of (1) human and socioeconomic vulnerabilities; (2) public health and safety; (3) economic concerns; (4) land loss; (5) wetland threats; and (6) coastal inundation. Essential capabilities must include a network to assemble and distribute data and model code to assess risk and its causes, support adaptive management, and improve the resiliency of communities. Better communication of information and understanding among residents and officials is essential. Here we review recent background literature on these matters and offer recommendations for integrating natural and social sciences. We advocate for a cyber-network of scientists, modelers, engineers, educators, and stakeholders from academia, federal state and local agencies, non-governmental organizations, residents, and the private sector. Our vision is to enhance future resilience of LECZ communities by offering approaches to mitigate hazards to human health, safety and welfare and reduce impacts to coastal residents and industries.
  5. Maritime transportation is crucial to national economic development as it offers a low-cost, safe, and efficient alternative for movement of freight compared to its land or air counterparts. River and channel dredging protocols are often adopted in many ports and harbors of the world to meet the increasing demand for freight and ensure safe passage of larger vessels. However, such protocols may have unintended adverse consequences on flood risks and functioning of coastal ecosystems and thereby compromising the valuable services they provide to society and the environment. This study analyzes the compound effects of dredging protocols under a range of terrestrial and coastal flood drivers, including the effects of sea level rise (SLR) on compound flood risk, vessel navigability, and coastal wetland inundation dynamics in Mobile Bay (MB), Alabama. We develop a set of hydrodynamic simulation scenarios for a range of river flow and coastal water level regimes, SLR projections, and dredging protocols designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. We show that channel dredging helps increase bottom (‘underkeel’) clearances by a factor of 3.33 under current mean sea level and from 4.20 to 4.60 under SLR projections. We find that both low and high water surface elevations (WSEs)more »could be detrimental, with low WSE (< -1.22 m) hindering safe navigation whereas high WSE (> 0.87 m) triggering minor to major flooding in the surrounding urban and wetland areas. Likewise, we identify complex inundation patterns emerging from nonlinear interactions of SLR, flood drivers, and dredging protocols, and additionally estimate probability density functions (PDFs) of wetland inundation. We show that changes in mean sea level due to SLR diminish any effects of channel dredging on wetland inundation dynamics and shift the PDFs beyond pre-established thresholds for moderate and major flooding. In light of our results, we recommend the need for integrated analyses that account for compound effects on vessel navigation and wetland inundation, and provide insights into environmental-friendly solutions for increasing cargo transportation.« less